Bonnie Jo Hanson/Times-Record
Staff from the Abused Persons Outreach Center (from left), Virginia Svenningsen, Cindy Hill and Carla Ranistate (not pictured) advocate for abuse victims. The group is making care boxes of personal care items that canâ€™t be purchased with food stamps.
The Abused Persons Outreach Center, Inc. in Valley City needs toilet paper to give to families in need, and second-graders at Jefferson Elementary School hope to collect enough of it to build a Christmas tree at the school on December 18.
Assuming each student brings in one roll of toilet paper, the tree could include 111 rolls.
The center plans to use the toilet paper in gift boxes that will include items such as shampoo, conditioner, soap, deodorant, toothpaste and toothbrushes and other necessities that canâ€™t be purchased with food stamps. The boxes include luxury items like lotions or bath gels as they are available.
For the past five years, Grebel has been working with second-graders in a effort to teach them about abuse. She started with bullying in school and teaching the kids that they need to be up-standers instead of bystanders.
â€śThe only way for bullying to go on is for you, as bystanders, to let it go on,â€ť she tells them.
Teaching kids to stand up for the victim makes it more likely that they will stand up for abused people as adults.
She teaches students about personal safety, how to deal with anger and encourages them to do a service project for the community.
Each grade at Jefferson chooses its own Christmas service project. The kids thought it was funny when Grebel suggested collecting toilet paper, but she explained to them how some people canâ€™t afford necessities like toilet paper and soap. Doing such a project teaches children empathy, she said.
The APOC is a non-profit advocacy and referral organization for people suffering from physical, economic, and sexual abuse, isolation, threats, intimidation, other psychological and emotional abuse or destruction of property or pets. In addition to a crisis hot-line that is manned 24/7, the center can assist in getting restraining orders, provide emergency short-term housing, and refer abused people to longer-term housing, social services programs and medical or psychological care.
Abuse, whether itâ€™s physical or emotional, can happen to anyone, according to Grebel.
In 2011, the APOC provided services to 720 people in Barnes County and more in surrounding areas. This included domestic violence against adults and children, sexual assaults and verbal assaults. And thatâ€™s just the cases that are reported.
Abuse is a silent crime because it is very under-reported.
Reports of domestic violence typically go down during the holiday season, said Grebel, because even abusers have the Christmas spirit. After the holidays, however, when the credit card bills come due and stress levels go up, the incidence of violence goes up again.
Currently, the greatest increase in abuse is in elder abuse.
According to Grebel, this may be because more young people are returning home, and because the definition of elderly has been lowered to age 50. Itâ€™s very difficult for parents to report their children for elder abuse. Also, the APOC has seen more cases of incest.
Currently, the APOC is well-stocked with toiletries for gift boxes, but paper goods and cleaning supplies such as Windex and multi-purpose cleaners are still needed.
To make a donation or for help with an abusive situation call the crisis center at 701-8445-0072. In a crisis call the 24-hour crisis line at 701-845-0078.